Denver City Council election: 3 candidates dont support the police

Crime has hurt our community and our national reputation. And Denver voters should know before election day that two of the candidates for City Council have supported defunding or even abolishing the police, while a third candidate effectively tried to do the same with RTD’s police.

Three years ago, Denver was ranked number two in the US News and World Report’s annual “Best Places to Live” survey.  In its most recent survey released this past week, Denver fell from 55th to 99th among 150 cities.

An obvious factor in Denver’s precipitous fall from the top: crime rates. Denver is listed as the 15th most dangerous place to live in its survey. Let that sink in.

Denver is ranked third in motor vehicle theft crime rates and sixth in property crime rates. Current data from the Denver Police Department’s website shows that over a 3-year average, violent crime is up almost 15%, with murders up by 11.5%. We also know that fentanyl cases filed by the Denver District Attorney have doubled every year since 2018.

And, while most eyes are focused on the mayoral election, three critical run-off races for Denver City Council Districts 8, 9, and 10 show the deep divide over the city’s police department.

In Denver City Council District 10 election, public safety has become the flash point between incumbent Chris Hinds and challenger Shannon Hoffman. District 10 has the second most crime in the city. Hoffman is aligned with a coalition endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America which includes fellow run-off candidates Candi CdeBaca in District 9 and Shontel Lewis in District 8. Among other things, DSA supports defunding the police.

I have donated $200 to each of these candidates’ opponents because crime is this city’s number one issue.

Hoffman is a self-described abolitionist when it comes to policing and is clearly not a fan of the police. In a January 2021 Facebook post, she compared the extremist Proud Boys who stormed the nation’s Capitol with the police who protected it. Hoffman said, “Police and Proud Boys. One in the same”. To state that claim is to vaporize it.

While it is unclear if that means she would like to abolish the police entirely, Hoffman has said she would divert money from the Denver Police Department to other departments in order to respond to public health issues. Hinds supports expanding police funding, among other strategic investments.

In District 9, incumbent CdeBaca faces off against challenger Darrel Watson. District 9 has more crime than any other district in Denver.

In  2020, CdeBaca attempted to abolish the Denver Police Department and replace it with a peacekeeping alternative. City council members voted 11-1 to kill that bill.

This past November, Denver City Council rejected CdeBaca’s proposed budget changes to cut the police department’s budget in half by $127 million in order to re-direct the money to other agencies. When asked by Councilmember Kendra Black if she was suggesting we “do not have a [police] department anymore,” CdeBaca replied, “very sharp, good observation. I am not opposed to eliminating that budget.”

For her part, Shontel Lewis, candidate for City Council District 8, led an unsuccessful effort as an RTD Board member to eliminate the transit security contracts with police officers and a private security firm and re-allocate the $27.3 million toward alternative security approaches and human services in 2020.

RTD used approximately, 600 armed, uniformed officers, and the proposal would have left armed security to about a dozen of  RTD’s in-house transit police officers. The proposal was rejected in a 14-1 vote.

Hinds, Watson and Revare all support rightsizing the police department along with other strategic investments such as expanding co-responder programs like Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response Program (STAR).

Given the decline in Denver’s safety, directly correlated with the recent weakening in many public safety laws at the state level, reducing necessary funding is a radical idea with alarming consequences.

Denver cannot afford to become another Portland or San Francisco if we want to remain a vibrant and prosperous city attracting good jobs and wages as opposed to a ghost town. The one-two punch of remote work and a less attractive downtown will reduce the resources available for the types of programs that would actually help the various problems we are facing. Cutting the police department when it needs a full recruiting strategy and more support from elected officials is insanity.

We need to make other strategic investments including deploying more mental health professionals and first responders, expanding co-responder programs, and creating drug treatment in jails. However, it’s not a zero-sum game where these and other strategic investments should be pitted against each other.

Denver needs an all-of-the-above strategy and leaders who are ready to rise to the moment.  The city we deserve depends on it.

Doug Friednash grew up in Denver and is a partner with the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck. He is the former chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper.

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